Concern for missing cavers near Goulburn

Source: Goulburn Post

UPDATE 1PM:

One of three cavers trapped underground in the Bungonia National Park for nearly a day has been rescued and taken to the surface. 

Police and paramedics had been searching for the three men - aged 52, 47 and 21 - who were reported missing on Sunday night after heavy rain and a possible rockfall trapped them in the caves.

Rescuers initially dug a small hole through to the cavern in which they were trapped.

A NSW Ambulance spokeswoman said rescuers managed to bring the first man to the surface just before 1pm on Monday, 24 hours after the trio entered the caves.

The two remaining cavers were expected to be rescued before 2pm, the spokeswoman said.

The men were "cold and wet, but otherwise well", the spokeswoman said.

VIDEO: Bungonia Gorge search base

Heavy rain fell in the area on Sunday afternoon, flooding a section of the cave system and preventing the cavers' escape. One person involved in the rescue effort suggested there had been a rockfall in the caves.

Police said the men entered the cave system in Bungonia Gorge about 1pm on Sunday and were due to return at 6pm.

The sister of one of the men raised the alarm about 10pm on Sunday when they had still not turned up.

Police said rain and water in the cave system had hampered the search, involving specialist officers from the Goulburn Police Rescue squad and the Goulburn Local Area Command, and NSW Ambulance Special Operations Team members.

Mark Cooper travelled to the rescue site from Canberra early on Monday morning after he learnt that his friend David Bedford, 21, was missing in the caves.

​AUDIO: Mark Cooper, friend of missing caver, 22 year old David Bedford

"As soon as we heard that I said, 'Look we'll head out there, let's do it,' " Mr Cooper said.

"Halfway here we heard that they had vocal contact with them and that's all we've heard, and they're having troubles to try and get him out. A lot of water, and that's all I know."

He said Bedford Cooper was from Colo Vale, but he did not know the other two men Mr Bedford  was caving with at the time.

However, he said they were experienced and "they've done this [caving in the Bungonia National Park] a ridiculous amount of times before".

Asked how he was feeling, Mr Cooper said: "Pretty scared, you know, that something really, really bad might happen.

"I'm just hoping they'll get out."

Brett Dutschke, a meteorologist at Weatherzone, said the Goulburn area had received about 50 millimetres of rain since Friday.

"The heaviest rainfall was on Sunday afternoon. There would have been some brief flash flooding around about 4.30pm in that area," Mr Dutschke said.

Inspector Anthony McLean, from Goulburn police, said the men were believed to be friends, and had previously been caving in the Bungonia area.

Earlier, he said the men were carrying technical caving equipment, and rescue teams had started searching for the men late on Sunday and throughout the night.

"I know there is some water in the caves, but I'm not sure how much at the moment," he said.

He declined to name the cave in which the men were stuck.

According to the Bungonia National Park website, there are about 200 "wild caves" in the park, many of which are open for experienced cavers to explore.

Many of the caves are vertical, requiring the use of either ladders or ropes.

UPDATE 11:34AM:

Police have made verbal contact with the three missing men in an isolated section of the caves in the Bungonia National Park.

The men are not injured however the rescue effort to reach them is ongoing and could still take several hours.

7:13AM:

Concerns are held for the safety of three cavers missing in Bungonia Gorge near Goulburn since yesterday.

Police and emergency services are coordinating a search for the cavers who've been missing since 1pm on Sunday when the men, aged 52, 47 and 21, entered a cave in the Bungonia National Park.

The experienced cavers were expected out by 6pm yesterday. Police were alerted by one of the missing men’s sisters around 10pm yesterday.

Police from Goulburn Local Area Command are currently at the scene and are attempting to search the cave system.

The search is being carried out by specialists from Goulburn Police Rescue and NSW Ambulance SCAT officers but they are being hampered by rain and water in the caves.

At this stage the area has been blocked off to the public and only emergency services, park officials and family members are being allowed in.

Bungonia caves fact file

The caves are precipitous in many places and entry is limited. The presence of "Foul air", dangerous levels of CO2 or O2, is common in the Bungonia caves, especially in summer and in The Grill Cave in particular.

One of the more well-known caves, The Drum Cave, is an important bat breeding site.

There are over one hundred and ninety caves at Bungonia, though some of these are not much more than small holes in the ground. They include:

- The Drum Cave

- The Blowfly Cave

- The Grill Cave

- Argyle Cave

- Chalk Cave

- College Cave

- Mass "cathedral" cave

- Canberra Hole

- Odyssey (Note: Closed. For research use only)

- Fossil cave – Hogans Hole

- System

- Spider

- Acoustic Pot

- Condom Cave - (Named After the map shape)

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